Okay, so movies is a bit of a conflicted topic, it always is, so bear with me, okay? I went through other lists to help me put these in order, and for the most part I stuck with ones I'm very familiar with, but of course, I'm sure you have your own list and that is no less fantastic. With no further ado, ten of the best movies with steampunk themes and art:
1) 20,00 Leagues Under the Sea
So, in my hunt for the best list order, I encountered a good few people who disagree with it, and don't find it to be a properly steampunk movie. I've read the arguments, debated, and I'm not sure I can say they're totally wrong. But, I can say that this movie has all the right styles and themes, and was really quite an inspiration for the more modern styles of steampunk in movies and in crafted items. So, you can think what you will, I even encourage you to seek them out and make an opinion. For sheer level of influence and reference in the realm of later steampunk, I think it deserves spot one in this list.
2) Van Helsing
This movie is big in the Steampunk movies world. It was on every single list that I found, so how could I not include it? It's also a huge one for costumes, shame I didn't think of it before I wrote about Halloween! Van Helsing is out to get Count Dracula with the help of a gypsy Princess by order of the Vatican, absolutely classic, and absolutely Steampunk.
3) Golden Compass
I'll admit, when I started looking around, this one wasn't on my mind. Once I saw it though, I completely understand it. At first, it passes itself off for cute fiction, but really, it's quite a dark movie. And it's based in a world full of scientific rules and complex scientific machines, even flying ones, which are quite a hallmark of steampunk movies. Even the movie's namesake, the Golden Compass, which does dabble a bit at fantasy, draws it into the realm of steampunk. It may look like fantasy, but really, it's one of the stealthiest steampunk movies I've ever seen.
4) Lemony Snicket's: A Series of Unfortunate Events
So, this was another sneaky one on the list, but once I saw it and watched again, I can see it. It's got the whole steampunk aesthetic, and with research I figured out why. The movie is based off of a serious of books, the first three to be precise. These books didn't have a time period, and to make a movie that was timeless, they reached out to steampunk. This was really effective- especially since it adds just the right touch to make the movie as gloomy as it is meant to be.
5) League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
This is actually based off a comic by the same name, which is a decidedly a steampunk/dieselpunk comic. It's a debatable one- the comic was easily identifiable as steampunk, but some people have decided it is a bit of an anachronistic movie, or it showed things that didn't belong in the portrayed time. What I find amusing is that is almost the whole point of steampunk. So, I find cars and tanks from the future on Victorian streets par for the course.
6) Atlantis: A Lost Empire
The first animation on the list, Atlantis: a Lost Empire is a bit of a cross between fantasy and steampunk. The magic crystal powered flying contraptions- they look like steampunk, there is no doubt about that. However, the magic almost got this movie discounted. But, all of the machines used to reach Atlantis- steam powered works of beauty. Drilling trucks, even the fantastic balloon machine at the end, this is mostly a steam powered movie. And some of the characters even have genre correct outfits, which just settles this more firmly as a solid steampunk animation.
7) Howl's Moving Castle
This movie has been deemed a 'steampunk fairytale'. Which seems perfectly accurate, because for all the elements of steampunk it has in it, it is not dystopian in nature, it's actually a relatively happy movie. It can be thought of as an alternate history, if magic was also thrown into things. Despite magic being the true power, everything in the movie that is technological looks entirely steam powered, simply magically provided steam. Cars of the non-magic steam powered variety are also readily visible in this movie.
8) Treasure Planet
This movie was originally based lightly around the famous book Treasure Island. But, animation lends itself amazingly well to the addition of crazy technology, and flying space ships that look like classic pirate ships. The adaptation even includes a villain with a very steampunk arm, full of changeable technology and period clothing on everyone, it's a perfect integration of steampunk into classic novels that had nothing to do with it.
Okay, so I will admit I pit this movie at 9 on purpose, to be a little bit ironic. This movie is a post apocalyptic nightmare, in which an animate ragdoll, the ninth one, of course, must save what remains of humanity, which only he holds the key to. The most telling thing that points to steampunk, after the post-apocalyptic world, are the villainous machines that are after our little stuffed hero, which look like they were pulled out of a steampunk machine nightmare.
This might be one of the most widely known steampunk movies, even outside of the circles that would recognize it for what it is. It was based off a novel called The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and features a young orphan living in the walls of a Paris train station, maintaining the clocks while also repairing an automaton, desperate to learn what it did when working, and what the importance of it was to his father. It's based in the 1930's, and it's all about watching metal come to life.
Thank you for taking time to look at this list, I hope it inspires you to widen your movie choices in this genre, or at least rethink some movies you may have overlooked, I know I'm certainly thinking more carefully about movies I watch now, so many of these themes are popping up in movies now!